Archive for the ‘Novel #1’ Category

‘The Fifth Compendium’ is Done!

Posted by arnaud on September 2nd, 2012

Yes, it’s true! The first draft for ‘The Fifth Compendium’ is done.

It’s been a long way since I wrote this books’s first words three years ago. I’ve done other work since, but when I look at ‘The Fifth Compendium’, I feel like a father about to send his elder child into the world. I’m proud of the work. Could I have made a better job? Probably, but who doesn’t mess up their first kid? There will be other books, other send offs, but not like this one.

I mentioned numerous times my distaste for editing. With now much more experience, I can tell that it’s not that I hate editing anymore (I used to). It’s more that it’s much less fun to edit than to write a fresh draft.

I’ve been reading the classic ‘Writing to Sell’ by Scott Meredith. Scott was a very renowned agent back in the 50es and his pupils are about everywhere in the publishing world today. One of them (Joshua Bilmes) is today one of the best agents. Scott knew his business and he knew about writing. One of the things he says in his book is that even if you know as a writer that you can rewrite, you shouldn’t plan to.

After now 8 months straight of editing (for a book I spent 5 months writing in the first place), I can see the wisdom in that.

I hear so often ‘put it down on paper first’, ‘don’t edit yourself on a first draft’ and so on that ‘Dare to be bad’ has become my mantra. Now, after a long period of editing, I keep wondering if I shouldn’t have spent a little more time on the first draft and produced a cleaner script. If I look back at the portions I edited out, I often needed to rewrite half a scene, because when I wrote it, I needed to warm up and wrote it bad. Dare to be bad? Maybe I should say ‘Dare to be not so bad’.

Yes, we have the luxury to rewrite our work. It doesn’t mean we should have to.

The good news is that I’ve re-read parts of ‘Shrouds’ and saw definite improvements in my writing, so I hope this one won’t take me another year to edit.

Another lesson well learned : I do need hard deadlines. I only picked up my editing speed when I decided to impose myself a deadline. The original deadline said ‘before vacation time’, but as I worked, I moved it up to one week before, which is today. The last weeks have been busy, but I’m here.

I’m going to rest a bit now and select the editors and agents I want to submit to. With luck, Gollancz won’t have forgotten about me and I may be able to send them a full. We’ll see about that.

Next step is finishing ‘The Emerald Shower’, which is fun first draft writing. After that, it will be back to editing ‘Shrouds’ as the next book (still untitled) matures in my head. It’s about ready, but I can’t afford to have 3 books to edit in a row next year.

Is it Easter already?

Posted by arnaud on May 1st, 2012

It’s been quite a bit of time since I’ve posted anything here. In fact, even my Twitter activity has been kind of low these last few months.

Do you know why? Editing is not that interesting to blog about, and I’ve been doing a lot of editing.

Let’s rewind a few months.

I had the opportunity to send 10 000 words to Gollancz’s editing  director Gillian Redfearn. Now, I wanted to have the full editing experience, so I composed a query package including the query letter, synopsis,  and my text. Since I could only reduce the synopsis to 2 000 words, it meant my text couldn’t be more than 8 000 words. That’s not a lot, especially for me.

Per Ian McDonald’s advice, I knew I had to end my submission on a dramatic beat, so I looked for one. The Prologue was a no-brainer and I included it. Oops, here’s half my allotted words gone away. Chapter 1 was good character development but too slow (the running gag is that it took me 3000 words to say “Ciera went to work”). Chapter 2 was on another character (still some nice development going on here) and no dramatic beat. Now, chapter 3 was a Ciera chapter with a little bit of surprise on the middle.

So, I could merge my 2 Ciera chapters, I could find my dramatic ending. The trouble was that all those sections put together were around 7 000 words.

That meant a round of hard editing, cutting off entire paragraphs off (sometimes, entire pages). After a few rounds of comments from my trusted readers, I felt confident enough to send my submission out.

That was early January.

The original plan was to go back and finish book 3, but I figured that if I could edit book 1 in full before Eastercon, I might have something to actually pitch to agents and editors there. So, I went to editing.

Let’s face it, I’m as good as GRR Martin when it comes to plan a schedule (unless I have a hard objective to meet it seems). So editing drifted a little (Ok, a lot). Today, I’m about halfway through book 1 with a few side editings of books 2 and 3.. Granted, there were some health issues in my family and I could have been more productive, but let’s face it : editing is much harder than writing. On average I edit only as fast as I write. That means I can only edit about 1 000 words a day. As the book was written in 5 months, that gives a rough estimate for the editing (expected to be over by the end of may, and I think even that’s optimistic).

That’s when Gillian asked me for chapter 2.

It was a few weeks before Easter. She had been swamped by larger than expected books delivered (expect a fat Joe Abercrombie in a few months) and started to edit my work basically in late march. After a brief instant of panic (“I haven’t merged my chapter 2 yet!”), I was very pleased to know that the writing didn’t repulse her and that she wanted more (whatever her reasons). I merged my 2 3 000 words chapters and managed to bring what I delivered back to 2 000 words. As I said on twitter, 3+3=2 when editing. I sent her the new chapter and waited for her answer.

Her feedback came shortly before I went to Eastercon.

I must say it surprised me. I mean, this was my first novel I submitted. Even with heavy revisions, it’s still the first thing I ever wrote and I expected a professional editor to send it back bleeding red with a side note saying “This story isn’t novel worthy”. Maybe that was my writer’s insecurity talking here, but I really expected to be trashed to some extent.

Along with her annotations, she wrote this to me:

“The main thing I’d like to say, though, is that it’s very nicely done. Your ideas are strong, the characters are nicely constructed, and the world is well conceived and well evoked. Those things are all rarer than you might think :)”

Now, that’s high praise for any aspiring writer. The edited document was bleeding red as I expected, but showed no big  mistakes – except my antagonist’s name which happens to be the name of a lethal illness (that made me laugh no end). Oh, and she loved the query letter, so I was overjoyed to say the least.

That gave me enough confidence to go to Eastercon with a load of questions for her.

But that’s another story for another blog post!

End of year thoughts

Posted by arnaud on December 28th, 2011

I wouldn’t want to do the traditional year recap here, and bore everyone to tears, but 2011 has been a pivotal year in my writing experience, so I wanted to take some time to write those down.

I wrote 2 books this year (almost, but let’s not dwell too much on that).

I know ‘Shrouds’ took me almost a year to produce, and that it has a lot of problems, but let’s be honest, I learned quite a lot writing this one, and there is this feeling when you reach the end of a book where your fingers write faster and faster, like you are riding a horse that won’t stop. Crossing the finish line in these conditions makes you forget all the time you were down in the mud trying to convince the horse to make a step.

I learned to like rewriting.

Funny how it’s much easier to edit your work once you actually see what’s wrong in it. My first editing passes were awful, and I knew it : I corrected nothing, and only got frustrated. Thanks to the writing group, now I know what to look for, and how to fix it.  It’s becoming difficult to read one of my earlier chapters now, because I can see what’s wrong in them, and I have to fight the urge to edit said chapter on the spot.

I joined the RE writing group where my writing got much better after a hurtful few submissions were trashed.

I was warned beforehand, that the writing group process was a difficult one. Man, I had no idea. They minced my first chapters real nice, pointing out all that they felt was wrong in it. That wasn’t easy to hear, but in the end, I found that the worst things they said about me were also the most useful. Sometimes, I really wish I had more bad reviews out there.

I’m now attempting to be professional about my writing : I follow Locus sales, I read business blogs, I go to conventions.

Yes, I’m switching to professional writing mode. I always wanted to sell my work, but 2011 is the year I began actually doing something about it. As every SF/F writer should do, I subscribed to Locus and am actively tracking the sales each month to get a feel of what editors and agents are buying today. As many writers this year, I asked myself the question about self publishing, and read actively writing business blogs to get a better feel of the industry. I’m also now a member of the SF/F community, as I voted for this year’s Hugo awards.

Let’s not forget conventions, shall we? My plan right now is to attend 2 cons a year, one local (Utopiales has really been good to me), and one international. This year, I went to Sweden for Eurocon, where I saw some wonderful people talking. Eurocon didn’t bring me much in the way of business connections, but it certainly widened my understanding of the genre a lot.

Next year, I’ll go either to World Fantasy in Toronto, or to Eastercon in London. Worldcon in Chicago seems out for now.

I attempted and won Nanowrimo – twice.

I don’t want to boast too much here, but I did it. Twice! This year, I was in a good position to start a new novel for Nanowrimo, with the concept and basic characters formed in october. I launched myself into it, and soon realized that 50 000 words were too easy to reach for that novel, so I pushed my limit to 100 000. It seems like the procrastinator in me really needs fixed goals in order to produce. I usually do 1 000 words per day, 4 days a week. During nano, I did 3 000 words per day every day, which boosted my productivity. Since then, I allowed myself a few days rest, and the novel isn’t going forward anymore. I need to fix myself a new goal – preferably an unrealistic one.

I’m extending my networking with other writers, known or not known.

Last year, I met Brandon Sanderson. I was pretty much a fanboy then. He gave me some great writing advice, but I wasn’t that professional then. This year, I met him once more, this time to talk about business. At Utopiales, I met Ian MacDonald and he explained to me for an hour the whole process of submission. After Nanowrimo, I got to meet Aliette de Bodard, and she spent an hour of her time to talk about the business too.

On the not-yet-published side, I’m also networking with other aspiring writers who are serious about being published. It’s great to exchange tips on writing or about the business with them. I also am building a writers group in Paris with one of my Nanowrimo friends. We’re going for an innovative format where we’re not only critiquing our work, but also discussing about the writing business and craft.

I’m pushing my work to an editor.

I haven’t blogged about it yet, since I’m yet at the proposal stage, but I was lucky enough to win a detailed analysis of 10 000 words I’ve written by Gollancz’s editorial director Gillian Redfearn. Gollancz is one of the biggest SF/F imprints in the UK, and Gillian Redfearn is a top editor there. It’s really a privilege to be able to push my work to her and get her input on my writing.

I’m currently assembling the package I’ll be presenting to her early January. Staying under the 10k barrier has proved difficult and forced me to merge together chapters the writing group suggested be presented as one. Right now, the submission includes a 5 pages synopsis, the book prologue, and chapter 1. I intend to write a short query letter as well for Gillian to critique.


So, I have a lot of things to be grateful about this year.

For 2012, the plan is to:

  • Finish the third novel. Honestly, I shouldn’t spend more than 2 weeks on this.
  • Finish editing the first novel. The entire first act is almost through the writing group. I think now I can finish editing this novel without them.
  • Present the first novel to agents. If I want to do this by Easter (for Eastercon), the novel has to be edited by then.
  • Edit the third novel
  • Start the fourth novel
Lots of work in perspective!


Posted by arnaud on October 28th, 2011

November’s going to be a busy month.


First, I’m going to the Utopiales con between november 10th and 13th. Last year, I met Brandon Sanderson there and had a blast. I don’t suppose this year will be as good, but Utopiales is a nice place to be, with or without Brandon. I already took care of all the logistics, so all that remains is to go there and have fun.


Then, my actual writing workshop is coming back. We’ve changed the format somewhat, from critiquing individual pieces based on the same premises, to doing some collaborative work. We’re still a little unsure how we will deal with that. The plan right now is to discuss the plot and share the POV characters between groups. Each group of two is supposed to write a single POV and share it with the group. The discovery writer in me cringes at this process. Knowing myself, I won’t be able to stick to the outline, and I fear that the voice I’ll be writing in will be too alien for my partner. We’ll meet on november 7th to discuss the actual process.


As if that wasn’t enough, I enrolled in NaNoWriMo this year.

Yes, I pledged to write 50 000 words this month!

Daunting, I know. If I look at my mean writing speed, on my second novel, I topped 20k per month. I have to do more than twice that if I want to attain the 50k peak.

Why did I enlist? Well, first, I was about to start my third novel in november anyway. Being in NaNoWriMo gives me a much deserved kick in the pants to do the actual writing. I know that 50k does not a novel make (not for me anyway), but if I can do it in a month, I can hope to have my new novel in 3 month, maybe 4. If I compare that with 5 months for book #1 or 12 months for book #2, that’s really a plus.

The one downside is editing of “The Fifth Compendium”. Right now, I edited up to chapter 10 (people who read this book before, this is chapter 8 for you), and with NaNoWriMo on, I won’t edit a word in november. That leaves me with about 30 unedited chapters on my hands.

If I’m ever to publish that one, I have to step up the editing process, which means cutting out the writing group from the loop altogether. The original plan was to have them see the whole of Act I, so 3 more chapters. I’m not even sure I’ll bring them up to that. Probably I’ll send the whole edited package to one of the writing group members who selflessly proposed himself to be an alpha reader. Anyway, if I want to actually submit this novel in 2012, I’ll have to work hard.

I have my work cut out, it seems!


Changed version, Mark II

Posted by arnaud on October 23rd, 2010

Just a quick post to tell you that I upgraded the version of this blogging site.

I don’t see much differences yet, but this one is supposed to correct the impossibility to post to Twitter of the previous one (since Twitter changed it’s security policy).

I’ll see if this works right away!

Note 1 : Didn’t work, the twitter plugin requires the php curl library

Note 2 : Looks much better with the library loaded!